The very first time it dawned on me there were two distinct camps regarding mayonnaise was one afternoon at a restaurant. I was having lunch with a great friend, and she had been interrogating the waitress about the chicken salad , asking her,”This doesn’t have any of the dreadful Miracle Whip, does it?” The waitress assured her it was pure mayo that held those little morsels together. My friend seemed relieved and ordered it, but I ordered something else.
I admit I come by it honestly. I grew up in a Miracle Whip home, and I inherited my mother’s dislike for mayonnaise. early. To this day, I buy only MW and so does my sister. However, mayo holds top honors in the condiment world, at least in the U.S., tied only with ketchup in popularity, and a must-have on millions of sandwiches daily, in addition to in salads and sauces. Some fanatics even place it on french fries.
As a child, I frequently asked my mom why some sandwiches or salads tasted”gross” until I understood that MW had a distinctly different taste than traditional mayo, which, in my opinion, has no flavor in any way. (Please, no hate mail). When it finally clicked in my mind, and I knew the difference, it was MW all the way from then on.
But let’s travel back in time to learn about mayo, and the French fire that started it all. The creation of mayonnaise is credited to the chef of Duke de Richelieu in 1756. While the Duke was defeating the British at Port Mahon in Menorca, Spain, his chef was whipping up a unique victory feast that included a special sauce made with cream and eggs, staples of French cuisine. Some food historians insist that the Spanish pioneered the rich spread, but it seems more likely that the French did the honors. Word of mouth (and taste buds) traveled across the pond, and Americans quickly adopted the creamy madness. Many residents of French heritage, and of course chefs searching for new frontiers, introduced it in nyc, and we know that by 1838, the popular restaurant Delmonico’s in Manhattan offered mayonnaise in many different dishes.
Soon chefs were dreaming up different ways to use the popular spread, especially in salads. In 1896, the famous Waldorf salad, made its debut to rave reviews at a charity ball at the Waldorf Hotel, chock full of apple pieces, celery, walnuts and grapes, all held together by that creamy mayo, and diners couldn’t get enough.
As refrigeration blossomed at the turn of this century, hundreds of food manufacturers raced to get their version of mayo in the shops. 1 such manufacturer was Hellmann’s, a New York City brand that designed wide mouth jars which could accommodate large spoons and scoops, and they soon began to dominate the industry. Mayonnaise, which had heretofore been considered a luxury, was quickly becoming a household staple and taking its place at the dinner tables in millions of homes. Many professional chefs and homemakers made their own versions, but jars of the popular condiment were featured prominently on grocery store shelves.
Enter Miracle Whip, created in 1933 from the Chicago-based Kraft Foods Company. It made its debut during the Depression as a cheaper alternative to mayo, and while it does contain the key ingredients of mayonnaise (egg, soybean oil, vinegar, water), it deviates from the standard of mayo with a sweet, spicy flavor that lots of folks preferred and still do, but is required to label itself as”salad dressing” instead of mayo.
So whether you’re a straight mayonnaise user, a renegade Miracle Whip aficionado, or you’re frequently heard to say”hold the mayo”, there is no getting around this wildly popular condiment, and we can thank the French gourmands once again for this creation.